Hello Rambling Masses,
I am in a bit of a didactic solutions kind of mood today, so I thought that I would aim the flickering torchlight of my intellect and reason on a rather topical issue in contemporary Australia - what shall we do to save our poor farmers?
For those not in the know, our farmers are struggling more than they ever have in our 200-year-odd history of western civilisation. Drought conditions are continuing to turn pasture land and arable land into arid dust bowls, soil salinity is robbing the earth of its growing potential, and the national river network is desperately in need of water.
The federal government is doing what they can by providing some $3 billion worth of drought aid, but this is really only a short-term sticky plaster solution to what is quite likely going to be a problem that will remain with us in the long term, what with climate change and the growing scarcity of fresh water.
So, what do we do to save the farmers and, just as importantly, keep home-grown produce on our tables? It seems like it is an impossible problem. Many different solutions have been tendered, from the sublime to the ridiculous. On the ridiculous side of things, we have such ideas as piping fresh water from the north, over thousands of kilometers to the drier southern climes, or building more desalination plants. All poppycock, and not at all practical.
My solution to the problem is at once complex and oh so simple. It seems obvious to me that European farming practices, on which our farming is almost exclusively based, are no longer a viable method of using (and abusing) the land. I further postulate that the first thing we should do is to change our whole idea of how we farm.
First, the government should supply significant funding increases to bodies like the CSIRO, so that they can engage in research to determine native species of flora that can be cultivated to provide food for people and stock. Let's face it - every half-decent gardener with their little plot of suburban land knows these days that native plants are ideally suited to the climate we live in and with. There's a reason for this - the plants have had millions of years to evolve to suit their environment. Duh!
Here's another real brainwave - how about the CSIRO research actively engages the aboriginal communities to learn from a people that have been here for 40,000-odd years? Not only will we learn a huge amount about sustainable practices in Australia and which plants and animals could be viable food sources with the least possible impact and most suited to their local microcosms, but we would also be empowering those aborigines who want to make a go of it to take a place of pride and honour in our society as teachers and guides. Working together, we could prove that we really are the "knowledge nation", instead of throwing millennia of lore out the window.
It would not be an easy task. There would be much trial and error, but I am just about certain that viable alternatives can be found amongst the "bush tucker" style of plants and animals to feed this nation, save the farmers, and lift the majority of aborigines up to where they belong.
As consumers, we also need to be very open to new ideas. We must start to accept the new foods that we carry home in our shopping bags (canvas bags, of course...) and prepare lovingly in our kitchens.
A classic example is meat. Go to any supermarket, and you will be confronted with vast walls of chicken, lamb, beef and pork. If you're lucky, you might see two small trays of limp, tired kangaroo meat, costing about $8.5 million per gram. This is so very wrong. Roos are very drought tolerant, their breeding cycles are perfectly adjustable and in tune with their local environment, and as soon as you leave the cities, you really start to get an idea of how many of the buggers there are roaming around the place. If only we diverted some of the effort away from chicken, sheep, cattle and pig farming and into kangaroo farming, we would have a much more sustainable outlook for all farmers.
It's great that the government is helping the farmers out, but you have to realise at some point that a quick fix like that isn't going to come near to solving the long-term problems of inefficient and unsustainable farming practices. It's akin to spending tens of thousands of dollars fixing up a car's engine when the real problem lies in the fact that it has square wheels.
Until next time Ramblers, stay real.